plant based lifestyles

October 23, 2019

The stereotypical image we hold of people surviving in cold climates includes consuming high amounts of meat, dairy and eggs. This cultural practice stems from a geographic and ecological necessity. In harsher climates, plant foods are typically difficult to cultivate because they cannot survive the intense temperature lows that humans or animals could. 

Many human health problems of our modern world can be attributed to lifestyle factors. Namely, our sedentary way of living in 21st century hyper-industrialized North America is a great leap from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle that was practiced by most humans for the majority of our evolutionary timeline. Both omnivores and vegetarians alike have difficulty obtaining the right amount of Vitamin D during the colder months, which is why supplementation is the smartest strategy to avoid unwanted health complications. 

At colder temperatures, the human metabolism must expend more energy to keep us warm. Thermogenesis is the process by which certain foods produce a warming effect on the body. These foods are typically ones rich in protein and carbohydrates, which involve more energy expenditure to digest. Thus by burning more calories, our bodies feel warmer, just as if we were exercising! 

For some vegetarians, the holidays can be a lonely or isolating season. Many holiday meals in Western culture feature animal centrepieces, and if family or friends eat an omnivorous diet, this could be alienating for their local friendly vegetarian. One great way to bridge this divide is to bring a plant-based dish to dazzle and share with everyone, while ensuring you have something delicious to eat. Alternatively, you could seek out vegetarian friends or dedicated events that cater to your interests specifically. This is the perfect time to build community around shared values. 

Make sure to drink ample hot teas, coffee or cider between meals if you are feeling cold but don’t want to be eating all day long. This is a great way to keep hydrated without the chilling effects of downing cold water, and can help improve blood circulation. 

Another smart strategy for thriving throughout the winter is to follow seasonal availability of produce. Dietitians actually recommend this helps strengthen the immune system to keep winter colds or other sicknesses away. In British Columbia, look out for farmers’ delightful selection of pears, apples, squash, persimmon, brussels sprouts, broccoli, potatoes, beets, and so much more throughout the winter months. The beauty of eating with the seasons is that your food does not have to travel as far to reach you, meaning you can eat fresher and healthier food and while producing less transport-related emissions. Most importantly, you can support local agriculture, ensuring food security and building community. 

Many of the best vegetarian winter recipes feature these seasonal produce options. Try out a curried pumpkin ginger soup, borscht, apple crumble, roasted brussels sprouts, pear compote, or any other ingenious combination you can dream up! 

Beyond diet, there are great ways to mindfully embrace the cold. For this practice, we should look to the timeless wisdom of our Northern cousins. Norway may as well be Europe’s Canada, but they dare to enjoy their cold weather. This country embraces winter to the extent that they even have a specific word for the sense of coziness that can be indulged during the colder months – koselig. Norwegians look forward to skiing, fireplaces, hot drinks, and awing over the majestic natural landscapes that are at their peak of brilliance blanketed in snow. 

Even if Vancouver is not blessed with the snowy winter wonderlands that grace other Canadian cities, this by no means suggests that we should be left out of enjoying the cold. Let us embrace ice skating, plan the friends’ ski trip to Whistler, go tobogganing in Squamish, or simply plan special hot chocolate dates with our loved ones. If there is something to be cherished, to anticipate, to mindfully enjoy, the winter can fully inhabit its own special place in our hearts. 


September 12, 2018

From hippies and hemp, to avocados and ashwagandha, Vancouver is the home to historic Rainbow Road and has been a longtime friend to vegetarians. The city hosts a modern reputation of yoga, hiking, and delectable healthy cuisine inspired by global culinary traditions, carrying its cosmopolitan green mindset into the 21st century. Although Vancouver was originally quite conservative with its pioneer population of loggers, industrialists, and fishermen, an influx of American draft dodgers and West coast ideology in the 1960s and 70s began to shift Vancouver’s values towards the liberal, green mindset that it is now renowned for.

A crucial aspect of this alternative lifestyle is to embrace more compassionate dietary options. Whether it be the collision of global cultures infusing the city with diverse dinner options, or an enhanced awareness triggered by our proximity to such beautiful natural wonders, Vancouver has come to be known as one of the most vegetarian-friendly cities in the world. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) named Vancouver the top city in Canada for vegetarians, and sixth globally. This reputation is supported by a multitude of comfort food, healthy, and indulgent staples served at local favourites such as the Naam, Heirloom, or Meet. The Naam was established on Rainbow Road (currently known as 4th Avenue), and became the epicentre of the hippie movement in Vancouver. It also served as a meeting place for those interested in Eastern philosophy and spirituality, ideologies that famously associate non-violence with abstinence from meat consumption. While the Naam may have opened in 1968, the real tide of vegetarian restaurants has swept over Vancouver in the 2000s and 10s, as popularity for the adoption of vegetarian or vegan diets has skyrocketed. Almost 40% of British Columbians under 35 now consider themselves meatless, so needless to say, there is an obvious demand for quality restaurants and services that avoid cruelty to animals.

Beyond food options, Vancouver is also home to a number of retailers and organizations that encourage community building and support animal activism. Shops such as Nice Shoes provide animal-free footwear and accessories, Willow’s Wax Bar offers vegan-friendly spa services, and charity organisations such as Earthsave and Sea Shepherd were established and maintain headquarters in Vancouver. There are many Meetup and Facebook events that cater to vegetarians, seeking to connect like-minded individuals who may otherwise feel isolated from the general community.

Given the burgeoning popularity of plant based lifestyles, made popular by celebrities like Ellen, Beyonce, Joaquin Phoenix, and Chris Hemsworth, it is likely that the movement may continue to grow over the next few years. Should the trend grow, Vancouver will be well-placed to cater to the plant curious and seasoned veggie veterans alike.